Things to see and do - Madrid
Madrid, a walk in the museum district... :
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Madrid, a walk in the museum district...
Madrid, a walk in the museum district...Pedestrian, 5 km, 2 days
A stroll in Madrid's most majestic area, with its leafy avenues lined with stately buildings, luxurious hotels and famous museums. Tourists and locals alike love to wander these streets between visits to the Prado Museum and walks through the beautiful Buen Retiro park.Customise this route and add it to My travel book
Seated in a carriage, the Goddess of the Earth is drawn by two lions (note that one of them is a lioness!). This square, dear to the hearts of Madrid's citizens, is the meeting point of the Calle de Alcalá, the Gran Vía and the Paseos del Prado and de Recoletos. All around are impressive buildings: the Bank of Spain, as austere as it should be, and the Buenavista and Linares Palaces. Then there is the Palace of Communications, built in a grandiose and undefined style.
Running from the Cybele Fountain to the Neptune Fountain, this avenue was designed for King Charles III, the «enlightened» monarch who remodelled Madrid. It used to be considered good form to be seen at the evening 'parade': ladies of fashion in carriages, glances concealed by fans, and swaggering cavaliers met each other there. Apart from the carriages and horses, little has changed in this area, with two temples to luxury: the Ritz and Palace Hotels on either side of the Neptune Fountain.
This place is made for landlubbers, old seadogs and budding admirals! You can daydream while looking at superb models of ships, books and navigational instruments. As explorers at heart, you cannot fail to be moved by the precious chart made by Juan de la Cosa around 1500: only eight years after Columbus discovered the New World, this was the first time that America had been mentioned on a map.
Baron Thyssen, the heir to a fabulous collection of paintings, donated it to the Spanish State which then housed it in a neo-Classical palace renovated by Rafael Moneo. The collection is an opportunity to explore Western art from the late 12C to the present day, from Duccio di Buoninsegna to Roy Lichtenstein, via Holbein, Carpaccio, Cranach, Patinir, Rubens, Gainsborough, Courbet, Gauguin, Cézanne and Magritte, and many others! A contemporary wing houses the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza collection.
A visit to the Prado is an opportunity to view numerous masterpieces of Spanish and European art. Its highlights include Las Meninas by Vélazquez, the Majas and Executions at Moncloa by Goya, as well as the latter's Black Paintings (Saturn Devouring his Son). The museum also contains an exceptional collection of 15C-17C Flemish and Italian paintings. Following five years of building work, the surface area of the Prado has now doubled, enabling the considerable expansion of its exhibition space.
Created in 1781 by the architect Juan de Villanueva and the botanist Gomez Ortega, this garden has recently been renovated. Coolness and shade await you there, under exotic species of foliage: a luxury best appreciated in summer!
This contemporary art museum occupies the former Sabatini hospital. As well as leading names in international art, it also boasts a collection of 20C Spanish painting and sculpture. The building's spectacular extension, opened in 2004 along Ronda de Atocha, is by the French architect Jean Nouvel, and hosts ambitious temporary exhibitions. In addition to Picasso's emblematic masterpiece, Guernica (1937), the museum also displays works by Gris, Miró, Dalí, Tapiès, Lopez-Garcia etc.
The 130 ha Retiro Park is today a green space where you can breathe in the heart of the capital, scattered with thick clumps of trees, like La Chopera in the south. You can row on the (artificial) lake under the indifferent gaze of King Alfonso XI, or join the locals running along the pathways. The more romantic may prefer to court their sweetheart beside the grotto and the water, around the graceful Crystal Palace, a setting for modern art exhibitions.
This enormous gate, at the corner of the Retiro Park and blocking Alcalá Street, was built between 1769 and 1778 by Sabatini, one of Madrid's masters of neo-classicism, to commemorate the entry into Madrid of Charles III, the most outstanding of the Bourbons. It is even more majestic at night when lit by spotlights.